- Associated Press - Monday, December 10, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa lawmaker challenged on Monday the accusations of a woman who filed an ethics complaint alleging he touched her inappropriately in bars a year before he became a senator, saying parts of her story “do not ring true.”

The woman, Des Moines attorney Sharon Wegner, filed a complaint Nov. 17 with the Senate Committee on Ethics alleging Sen. Nate Boulton repeatedly placed his hand on her buttocks at two bars during an evening in November 2015.

Boulton was elected on Nov. 8, 2016, and took office in January 2017.

Wegner’s accusations initially made public in May contributed to Boulton dropping out of the June primary in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor. He refused to resign from the Senate even though Senate Democratic leader Janet Petersen asked him to quit. She recently excluded him from committee assignments for the legislative session to start in January.

Boulton was given until Monday by the committee of three Democrats and three Republicans to respond to the ethics complaint. The committee will next schedule a public hearing to consider it.

The committee can choose to take no action, dismiss the complaint or find it valid and discipline Boulton. Options include admonishment, a cease and desist order, appointment of a special counsel or recommendation to the full Senate censure or reprimand.

The response filed by Boulton’s attorney, Paige Fiedler argues for dismissing the complaint, saying ethics rules do not apply to events that occurred prior to the time he took office as a senator. Boulton also contends he didn’t violate Senate sexual harassment rules because the rules clearly did not apply to a Senator’s private conduct not connected to his duties or colleagues.

Boulton’s response also includes a sworn statement from an attorney he works with at a Des Moines law firm who said she witnessed Wegner flirting with Boulton during a cocktail hour at a Des Moines bar the month before the alleged inappropriate touching incident and Boulton didn’t return the flirtations.

Wegner, in a statement, denied that occurred.

“It is Senator Boulton’s actions that bring us here today, not mine. Mr. Boulton does not deny the interactions that form the basis of the ethics complaint, and instead attempts to victim blame me regarding a wholly separate and manufactured incident unrelated to the complaint at hand,” she said.

Boulton said Wegner continued to support his campaign by attending events and she actively pursued his professional advice on legal matters until 2018 when her publicly-expressed opinions about Boulton dramatically changed. He said the documented interactions “seem inconsistent with the aggressive assaults she claims to have endured on that date.”

Boulton has acknowledged struggling with alcohol and said he’s taken responsibility for the consequences of alcohol abuse. He said he was drunk and cannot say with absolute certainty that he never touched Wegner “despite neither he nor his wife recalling the conduct Ms. Wegner now describes.”

He said he chose to stop drinking over a year ago.

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